Drive to cut heart and cancer deaths boosted by £1.6m scanner

A PIONEERING scanner, capable of capturing images of entire organs in a fraction of a second, is coming to the UK for the first time, it emerged yesterday.

The 1.6 million machine, developed over ten years at a cost of 250 million, will start operating in Edinburgh in January.

It is hoped the scanner will improve the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, cancer and other conditions, as well as help researchers hunting for major medical breakthroughs.

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The Aquilion One CT scanner, made by Toshiba, is coming to Scotland supported by a 4 million investment by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

In an unusual move, the company will use up to 25 per cent of the scanner's capacity to extend health screening for its staff. The remaining 75 per cent will be split between the Queen's Medical Research Institute (QMRI) and NHS Lothian, on top of the scanning resources already available in the region.

QMRI will be the first institute in the UK – and one of the first in Europe – to receive the new scanner. It will provide 4,000 extra scans for patients every year. The scanner is expected to make a major contribution to Scotland's efforts to cut heart disease and cancer deaths.

Unlike conventional scanners, the Aquilion One can capture an image of the whole organ in just 0.35 seconds, meaning radiation exposure is reduced by 80 per cent compared with a CT scan.

It is also hoped the scanner will reduce the need for invasive procedures on patients, as well as help research on the internal workings of the body. Professor David Newby, director of QMRI's clinical research imaging centre, said the scanner represented a major advance in imaging the human body.

"The scanner will enable the centre to carry out cutting-edge research with the ultimate aim of improving treatment for patients," he said.

Charles Swainson, medical director at NHS Lothian, added: "We are delighted that this partnership will result in such an advanced scanner being available.

"It will allow our clinicians to diagnose life-threatening illnesses within minutes and pave the way for quicker treatment."

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The partnership with RBS will see the bank contributing to the running costs for five years.

Allan Watt, group head of brand communication at RBS, said: "As well as supporting the UK's reputation for medical research and bringing additional diagnostic support to Scotland, it will allow RBS to extend its current health screening options to staff."

Nicola Sturgeon, the health secretary, described the arrival of the scanner as "a real coup".

She continued: "This partnership between NHS Lothian and RBS will offer real benefits to patients throughout Scotland who require access to this type of cutting-edge diagnostic service."